Jazz CD Reviews
E.S.T. – Leucocyte – Decca
Published on February 8, 2009
(Esbjörn Svensson – grand piano, electronics, transistor radio; Dan Berglund – double bass, electronics; Magnus Öström – drums, electronics, voice)
Certainly everyone—fan or not—can agree that it’s a tragedy when a jazz legend passes long before his time. It is especially sad in the case of Esbjörn Svensson, founder, leader, songwriter, and arranger for E.S.T. (The Esbjörn Svensson Trio), because his untimely scuba-diving accident happened just as the Trio appeared to be moving in a new and highly creative direction on their latest disc, Leucocyte.
At once both more meditative and expressionist/experimental than previous outings, Leucocyte presents lush soundscapes that both fascinate and exasperate. An example of the former is the haunting electronics that deftly punctuate the proceedings pretty much throughout. The latter finds expression in the machine-gun drumming at the end of one of two extended tone poems, “Premonition.” The wild mood swings contained herein have caused listeners and critics some consternation, which is understandable. But for this reviewer, it’s all good.
The sleeve art (not to mention the title, referring to white blood cells in the human body that fight infection) gives the game away: either black type against a white background (or vice versa), the word “leucocyte” breaks apart until it is illegible, signifying, one supposes, the break-up of the white blood cells as they fight off disease as well as the musical elements deconstructing as they fight off cultural decay. At least that’s how I hear it. Fragmentary it may be, but it’s never less than compelling, and sometimes it rises to genius (on “Still,” much of “Premonition,” and “Leucocyte: Ad Mortem,” with its fractured pianisms, eldritch voices, and scary electronics).
At once the most out there and satisfying E.S.T. disc, Leucocyte is both a firm reminder of the greatness of this remarkable group and a poignant good-bye to a band apparently on the cusp of intriguing self-renewal.
I. Ab Initio
II. Ad Interim
III. Ad Mortem
IV. Ad Infinitum
– Jan P. Dennis